Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Health and Toxics


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
13 October 2010, 2:36 PM
We want to know. Preferably before the next oil spill
Third-generation shrimp fisherman Clint Guidry. Credit: Matthew Preusch/Gulf Restoration Network

Yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazer lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling and declared the Gulf of Mexico "open for business."

We presume he was talking to the folks at BP, Exxon, and Shell—not so much to shrimp fishermen like Clint Guidry.

Like his father and grandfather before him, the 62-year-old Guidry has worked in Louisiana's shrimp industry for most of his adult life. But he simply doesn't know what the future holds for the family business.

A lot depends on the chemicals used as so-called dispersants in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill this summer. Did the 1.8 million gallons of chemicals dumped into the Gulf of Mexico send toxic-coated oil droplets tumbling from the water's surface and into the same areas of the ocean where Guidry's catch feed and spawn? Will it make the ocean creatures sick? What about the people who eat Gulf-caught fish?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
08 October 2010, 12:32 PM
There are chilling similarities among these toxic triplets
Hungary's red sludge aftermath

As my colleague Raviya Ismail described yesterday, the flood of toxic red sludge in Hungary is ominously similar to the toxic coal ash flood two years ago that swept out of a ruptured reservoir into a Tennessee town. But, the comparisons don't stop there.

The size and toxicity of the red sludge are also being compared to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They are roughly the same volume and can be harmful in high concentrations. They both have had immediate lethal effects on human and animal species, and are expected to have long-lasting harm. Moreover, in both cases, the governments involved have downplayed their impacts.

Hungarian officials are declaring the red sludge menace to be under control and without the feared consequences, even though at least seven people have died and aquatic life in various rivers and creeks have been wiped out. Read the following three graphs from a news report today and ask yourself if they sound familiar:

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
08 October 2010, 9:28 AM
Cul-de-sac merry-go-rounds, chemical-free cow juice, classroom meddling
A strip of houses in southwest Florida. Image courtesy of Google and The Boston Globe.

BP greases the facts
As if writing California's environmental curriculum wasn't enough, BP is back to meddling in the school system, this time to "dispel myths" about oil and chemical dispersants, reports ProPublica. Among the myths being dispelled is the idea that the chemicals are mostly harmless to people and wildlife, a claim that Earthjustice is currently disputing in court.

Court ruling makes milky waves
Milk fans who don't like their cow juice coming from animals pumped with growth hormones and full of pus won a major victory earlier this week after an appeals court overturned an Ohio ban on labels that identify whether milk products were produced with or without growth hormones, reports Grist. The decision could have repercussions beyond the pasture by establishing a standard that altered foods (i.e. genetically engineered) can be labeled as such.

View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
07 October 2010, 12:43 PM
Turns out he wants to keep cleaning product chemical info a 'surprise'
Failed presidential candidate/mock talk show host Stephen Colbert wants to rumble

When Stephen Colbert's ultra conservative Comedy Central character declares you as being part of the nanny state, you know you're doing something right.

Last night, the mock talk show host aired a segment on Earthjustice's campaign to enforce a 40-year-old New York state law and associated regulations requiring manufacturers of household cleaners to reveal the chemical ingredients in their products and any health risks they pose.

"Way to spoil the surprise!" Colbert shouted, likening the effort to other pesky consumer protections he despises: baby seats and motorcycle helmets.

He then vowed to derail the initiative, declaring, "Nation, we're not going to take this sitting down. We're going to take it standing—on top of a step ladder, throwing a lawn dart at a drum of DDT." (Read more to watch the video.)

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
07 October 2010, 1:53 AM
Industry keeps insisting these substances aren't hazardous
Red sludge in Hungary

<Update 10/14: According to news reports, the red sludge tide now has reached the Danube River.>

On Tuesday, approximately 185 million gallons of red sludge burst from a reservoir at an aluminum plant about 100 miles southwest of Budapest, Hungary. The sludge, a hazardous-waste byproduct of aluminum manufacturing killed at least four people and severely injured some 120 more. Several are missing.

One Hungarian official called this an “environmental disaster.” Yet, according to industry representatives in the U.S. and Europe, red sludge isn't toxic.

If this story sounds vaguely familiar, it's because on Dec. 22, 2008, more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge burst through the dam of a waste pond at the Tennesee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee. There has been fierce debate since then over the need to regulate coal ash -- but the EPA has yet to decide whether to regulate it as toxic waste.

Not toxic? Isn't that the assurance given about red sludge?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
01 October 2010, 11:02 AM
Carcinogens are 40-times greater off Louisiana
Oil in Gulf of Mexico marshes

Cancer-causing substances have been discovered in the waters and air of the Gulf of Mexico near the BP oil spill area, at levels much greater than before the spill occurred, according to researchers from Oregon State University.

Increased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs—some of which are known carcinogens—were found along the coastlines of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, but the greatest increase was off Louisiana, where levels measured 40-times greater than before the spill. Ominously, the substances are available to be taken into the food chain.

The measurements were recorded in May and June, during the height of the BP oil spill, when hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf each day. New measurements are now being taken to see if degradation of the PAHs is taking place.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
30 September 2010, 3:02 PM
Uphold the Clean Air Act, groups ask
Photo: Fresno Bee

Across the United States—from California's Central Valley to Chicago, Houston and New York—people are breathing polluted air and suffering. Asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, birth defects and even cancer are the prices paid by residents in scores of American communities where polluting facilities operate.

Worst of all, this suffering is unnecessary. Cost-effective technology to dramatically reduce toxic air emissions exists, but some of the biggest polluters simply brush off obligations to clean up their acts and be better neighbors. This stubborn refusal to comply with the law is having an especially big impact on Latino citizens, as a recent letter to President Obama and Congress points out.

More than 25 million U.S. Latinos—66 percent of the total Latino population—live in places where federal air quality standards aren't being met. Rates of asthma in communities like San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood are four times the national average. The letter, signed by community groups representing more than 5 million Latino citizens in the U.S., urges the Obama administration and Congress to uphold the Clean Air Act, which the groups say "means jobs, better health and better opportunities for a brighter, healthier future."

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
30 September 2010, 1:57 PM
Sneezing salmon, farmers’ market fake-out, stinky CAFOs
Genetically engineering foods could make them more allergenic. Photo courtesy of evah, stock.xchng.

FDA's food policy makes people sneeze
On the heels of the FDA's decision to approve genetically engineered or GE salmon, a number of consumer and environmental advocacy groups are raising the alarm that genetically modified foods could be more allergenic due to the splicing and dicing of one food's genes into another, according to a recent Mother Jones' article. The concern is just one among many over GE foods, which is why Earthjustice is currently fighting to keep foods like genetically engineered sugar beets out of U.S. farms and off of Americans' plates.

Obama makes a stink over CAFOs
The Obama administration recently thumbed its nose at the Illinois EPA's oversight of confined animal feeding operations, aka CAFOs, which create mountains of manure equal to that of small cities and have fouled air and water supplies across the state. According to the Chicago Tribune, the agency has one month to clean up its mess. If it doesn't, the EPA will soon be wading knee-deep into the issue.

Farmers' market fakes out customers
Child-toting moms may soon start seeing "Farmers' Market" signs in the produce aisle of their favorite chain grocery store, according to the Washington Post. Stores like Safeway recently began posting the signs in an effort to cash in on the burgeoning local and organic foodie movement, but small farmers and their supporters are ready to throw tomatoes, arguing that the misleading tactic is unfair to customers and farmers alike.

View John McManus's blog posts
30 September 2010, 10:14 AM
Too little is known to allow unleashing of test-tube species
Gene-altered salmon

Last week the federal Food and Drug Administration held hearings to consider approval of a genetically engineered salmon containing unnaturally high levels of growth hormones. This creature has become widely known as the Frankenfish.

Creators of the Frankenfish, which grows much faster than natural fish, hope they'll get rich selling them for human consumption. But, what happens to those fish that escape the fork? Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that 60 of these fish released into a population of 60,000 wild salmon could "lead to the extinction of the wild population in less than 40 fish generations."

On the heels of the Frankenfish hearing comes a court ruling regarding the legality of planting and growing genetically modified sugar beets.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
29 September 2010, 11:19 AM
Public health groups urge Congress, Obama to act

Health organizations across the country are urging President Obama and Congress to recognize the damaging public health effects of climate change and to take measures that will reduce its impacts and the causes of climate change itself.

In a letter signed by many organizations, including the Lung Association and American Medical Assocation, the groups underscored how climate change harms the public:

As temperatures rise, more Americans will be exposed to conditions that can result in illness and death due to respiratory illness, heat- and weather-related stress and disease carried by insects. These health issues are likely to have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and the most economically disadvantaged.

The letter greatly emphasized the need to protect the EPA in its mission to protect the public's health: